Publications included in this section.
Those studying the public understanding of science and risk perception have held it clear for long: the relation between information and judgment elaboration is not a linear one at all. Among the reasons behind it, on the one hand, data never are totally “bare” and culturally neutral; on the other hand, in formulating a judgment having some value, the analytic component intertwines – sometimes unpredictably – with the cultural history and the personal elaboration of anyone of us.
The major Lisbon goal is to give Europe back the primacy as a society of knowledge. `Giving back' is a more appropriate term than `giving', as Europe long held that primacy in the past, and virtually as a monopoliser from the 17th century throughout the 19th. Then, Europe shared it with North America for a long portion of the 20th century.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has bestowed the 2007 Nobel Peace Price equally upon the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore, former vice-President of the United States of America, with the same motivation: «for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change».
The summer now gone has reported two episodes we would like to bring to the attention of the JCOM readers. Two minor pieces of news, unlikely to be in the limelight over the summer, when the media understandably focus on gossips and crime news. Even the experts – especially outside the Italian territory – would probably dismiss these events as minor, wouldn’t it be for the people involved. But let’s see the facts.
The Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (HR 1453) was introduced by the US House of Representatives on 9th March. The National Science Foundation, an independent United States Government agency that supports fundamental research and education, has thus been allowed to spend ten million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to provide communications training to improve the ability of scientists to engage in public dialogue.
NASA has decided to cut by 50% the next two-year budget for the Astrobiology Institute (NAI), and for all of the studies on life in outer space. This reduction follows an announcement made by Dr Michael Griffin, the Administrator of the space agency of the United States Government when, in addressing the Mars Society last summer, he clearly stated that xenobiology studies are marginal to the mission of NASA.
One can no longer rely on the presumption that scientists comply with the Mertonian value of disinterest and assume that they always tell the truth when spreading the results of their research projects. This can be rightly considered as the gist of the four-page report submitted to the board of the American journal Science by the committee chaired by the chemist John Brauman, from the Stanford University, and comprising three members from the Senior Editorial Board of the same journal, two eminent biologists specialised in stem cell research and a top editor from the other major general press medium of the Republic of Science, the British journal Nature.
The Royal Society published in late June a report entitled «Science Communication. Survey of factors affecting science communication by scientists and engineers». It is an in-depth survey on the communication addressed to non-specialist audiences that was carried out interviewing a wide and representative sample of UK scientists and engineers.
The American particle physics community is in jeopardy and may end up drowning in a boundless sea trying to grasp at non-existing funds, dragging US physics and science as a whole to the bottom. This is a price the most powerful and high-tech country of the world cannot afford, as warned by the editors of a report published in late April by the National Academy of Sciences1. Behind so much alarm is the International Linear Collider (ILC) – a large particle accelerator facility which, according to the report, should be built on American territory, if research on the elementary constituents of nature is to survive in the United States. The ILC will probably cost a total of five hundred million dollars in the first five years, whereas billions will have to be invested in the subsequent seven years. Hardly impressive, however, if compared with the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), the biggest and costliest machine ever conceived in the history of science. Devised to describe the first instants of the universe, as many will recall, the SSC project was severely hampered by political and bureaucratic plots in 1993, when the Clinton administration decided to halt work on the accelerator, after ten years and approximately two billion dollars already spent.
The scandal of the “biotechnology evangelist” erupted in Korea at the beginning of the new year: a commission from Seoul National University announced that it had proof that Dr Woo Suk Hwang, considered one of the world’s foremost experts on cloning by nucleus transfer, had manipulated the data concerning experiments in human cell cloning and the creation of eleven lines of stem cells from human embryos published in two different articles in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005.